Blood. Blood. Pause THUD Pause THUD. The sound of blood getting through again. Blood runs thicker than water. Hey Blood, what it is? Blood, sweat, and tears. She’s blood, man, so keep your hands off her. Bloody hell! Let’s hear it now: all for blood, and blood for all! Blood relatives. “I blood you. I blood you, too.” And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is blood. It runs in my blood. The blood of Christ. Sangre de Cristo. Let’s be blood brothers. Don’t bloody your hands with it. Make blood pudding instead. Or blood sausage. Morcilla. Witness the bloodshed. Matanza. Bloodthirsty. One curses her monthly blood. Another cries with relief. Bloodshot eyes. Blood. Blistering. Blood comes when the scab is scratched then dries quickly. She’s hot-blooded. Lujurioso. She’ll go for the throat. Don’t be bloody stupid. Bloodsuckers. Makes my blood boil just to think about it. If he could, he’d kill her in cold blood. A sangre fria. There’s blood in them thar hills. There’s no blood like the present. A stitch in time saves blood. Thou shalt not let blood. Sangre sangria. A bloody cool drink. So refreshing. Or sip blood juleps under the mimosa tree. Bloodtails for two. Don’t cry over spilt blood. What’s done is done. It’s all blood under the bridge now. What goes around comes around. Blood.
Jessamina Medina runs on mixed blood. Black blood. White blood. Brown blood. A Spanish Sephardic Jew’s blood throbbing through town one night mingled with the brown-and-white blood of her mother, a young woman selling handmade shirts. She cut the white muslin and sewed them by hand, simple loose, comfortable shirts from Marsella. Made by Lupe. Hecho a mano. His blood sought her blood. His mind said no. His body resisted. His blood pushed on, sweating, burning, a delirium of internal throbs catching in his throat, tripping up his heartbeat, fever, chills, his head hurt, face hurt, eyes burned and watered, he prayed. And prayed. She brought the shirt to his hotel. One night he was in Marsella. Just one night stopover. Next day catch his connecting flight. No business there. No interest in being there. Bought a shirt from a young woman, and stopped breathing. She brought his shirt to the hotel that night after she had finished her day of sales and sewing, and hemming his shirt to fit. She brought it to him. Bought and paid for. She thought only of the shirt. Of how much she made that day. Of how far she could stretch it to feed her brother and sister. She brought two shirts with her. Perhaps he would like another. Or buy it for a brother or father or nephew. A friend. Maybe a son. Perhaps, possibly, she would be lucky. He nearly gasped when he saw her at his door. What he had sensed in the depths of his gut he now knew to be true. His blood recognized her, smelled her, intuitively knew her. His mind stumbled. Blood took charge. Her brown-and-white blood, nesting for so long in deep hibernation, heard nothing, felt nothing, knew nothing. She vaguely thought of resisting but had no reason to. She tried to think of the whys or shoulds but her blood was red ether, dulling her mind, her thoughts, her weary loneliness. His blood knocked on the door and hers answered. Sleepy, dreamy, and slow. The door opened. He entered and, like a grizzly bear, devoured her. And she, like an infant child, was unaware she had been eaten by the bear. Until several weeks later, when morning sickness dogged her. Meanwhile, the bear wore out his white handmade shirt in another town, another country, without ever knowing what he had left behind.
Philemon drank, ate, drank, and closed his eyes for a moment. When the moment had turned into an hour, his eyelids flipped open, no fluttering, no squinting or blinking. The automatic timer in his head went off: Open eyes!
There was something on the bed with him.
Take stock of surroundings. Sense what’s happening. Gut read-out. Compare to mental analysis. Digest. Trust instincts. Look around carefully. Act carefully.
Between his legs all warm and dozing like a giant cat curled Jessamina, fetal and fed. Philemon extracted himself and got up from the bed. That didn’t wake her. He showered under a trickling stream of tepid water, washing his boxers at the same time. That didn’t wake her. He put on the single pair of undershorts he’d brought with him in the briefcase. He wanted a cigar.
That didn’t wake her. Philemon looked out the window.
“Marsella,” he muttered.
Philemon wondered what Jessamina would look like in twenty years with half a dozen snot-nosed kids. He wondered what Marsella would look like twenty years from now. How many more corpses?
“God, I need a cigar. Jessamina, wake up for chrissakes.” He shoved her. She bounced
up like a Jack-in-the-box.
“Phela-Mon! You okay? Everything okay?”
“Perfect. Except I want a cigar. And some clothes. Pronto.”
The girl was already on her feet, ready to serve. He gave her some money and she took off. Nothing more needed to be said. They had done this before. Many times before. Too many times before.
Philemon returned to the window that overlooked the rooftops of central Marsella and part of the square beyond. He could just barely see the right hand of Christ extending out past the corner of the church. Yeah, there was Christ stuck to the side of the building so busy blessing the people as they passed underneath Him. The Christ that watched the police station with the same sorrowful, compassionate, loving face that bore down on all Marsellans.
“Christ. What does he know?” Philemon began an argument with himself which would have really annoyed Major, had the parrot been there.
The clouds went one way.
Black birds went the other.
Why must we bother
to record the days
when all that comes and
goes forth without
Calendars of other years
Were torched and set a-sailing.
This should be the way
of all yesterdays.
This should be the way
To the pass.
When the plane landed, Luzanne Sistrunk Brazil said a prayer. Her stomach flipped as she unfastened her seat belt. No one filed out. No one else was getting off in Marsella. Not on that flight from America.
The only person she noticed was a portly priest, fastidious and finicky, an older man who polished everything in sight, even the soles of his shiny black shoes. Señor Bravista had been in Marsella a long time, supposedly sent by the archdiocese. Now he had been asked to look into a rather disturbing matter. Apparently a priest had run amok, gone AWOL, flipped out, disappeared.
No one remembered this ever happening before but apparently the priest actually killed someone. Yes, that’s right. Kill. As in, murder.
Mrs. Brazil, weighed down with worry, took no notice of Señor Bravista who watched her every move.
To be continued….